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Singapore says 2020 was worst year for jobs in two decades

(ATF) Singapore last year recorded its sharpest employment contraction in more than 20 years, official figures showed.

Overall employment, excluding foreign domestic workers, shrank by 166,600 in 2020, according to the labour ministry. 

Non-residents accounted for all of the employment decline, losing 181,500 positions.

Singapore resident employment rebounded by 14,900 jobs to slightly above pre-pandemic levels, as a result of improvements in the second half of the year.

In addition to Singapore citizens and permanent residents, many people classed as non-residents work in the city-state. They are issued permits for short-term and daily employment, mostly from neighbouring Malaysia and Indonesia. 

Resident employment grew in public administration and education, health and social services, information and communications, finance and insurance and professional services.

The hardest hit sectors were tourism and aviation, the Ministry of Manpower said.


By the fourth quarter of 2020, Singapore’s labour market showed a broad improvement. Resident employment grew firmly in the third and fourth quarters, while unemployment rates and retrenchments eased in the fourth quarter.

The number of job vacancies also increased, and a higher proportion of retrenched workers secured employment.

“The impact of Covid-19 on Singapore’s labour market has been significant,” the ministry said in a statement.

Government measures helped cushion the impact – resident employment continued to grow, and while unemployment rates rose, they did not exceed levels recorded in previous recessions.

Even though retrenchments rose, the incidence of retrenchment was lower than previous recessions after accounting for the increase in the workforce size over the years.

The labour market recovery in 2021 remains “surrounded in uncertainty”, the ministry said.


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George Russell

George Russell is a freelance writer and editor based in Hong Kong who has lived in Asia since 1996. His work has been published in the Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, New York Post, Variety, Forbes and the South China Morning Post.


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